Dylan Groenewegen is a man for all seasons. He began 2018 on a winning note with stage victory at the Dubai Tour and nine months on, he claimed his 14th victory of the season by landing the opening bunch sprint of the Tour of Guangxi in Beihai.
Some sprinters amass their victories in clumps, taking advantage of purple patches of form to flesh out their running totals. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider, on the other hand, seems a model of consistency, and he has been steadily inscribing new lines to his palmarès all season long.
April was the only month in his season to pass by without a victory and that, it should be noted, was a month that saw him race just twice – at Paris-Roubaix and at Scheldeprijs, where he was among the riders disqualified for passing through a level crossing.
Already a stage winner at the inaugural Tour of Guangxi last year, Groenewegen arrived in China mindful that the final WorldTour race of the year afforded four or perhaps even five opportunities for the sprinters. He duly snapped up victory at the first attempt, beating Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) and Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) after launching his effort with 200 metres to go in Beihai, a port city on the South China Sea.
“It was really hectic,” Groenewegen explained afterwards. “It was a fast final. On the climb, there were some attacks, but we took control and we were able to make the sprint – maybe a little bit too early – but I have really strong guys. They put me in a good position and I could sprint freely. We’re really happy with that and we’ve got confidence for the next days.
“It’s a good race for sprinters because you have flat stages and a lot of possible sprints. It’s been a really good season, beginning with the win in Dubai. Now we’re at the end of the season and there are more days coming and we’ll try it again in the next few days.”
Since stepping up to WorldTour level with LottoNL-Jumbo three years ago, Groenewegen has firmly established himself among the peloton’s pre-eminent sprinters. After claiming the Dutch title in 2016, Groenewegen underlined his status by winning on the Champs-Élysées in the 2017 Tour de France. Back-to-back victories in the opening week of this year’s race were the final confirmation of his status.
“I’m winning stages in the Tour de France so you can make the decision,” Groenewegen said firmly of his place in the sprint hierarchy, though he downplayed the idea that 2018 had marked a particular step-up from the previous campaign.
The difference, perhaps, is one of attitude: nowadays it seems that the 25-year-old and his lead-out train expect to emerge victorious every time they contest a sprint.
“I was really strong this year but I was last year, too. My team around me is really strong and we do a really good job in every race. We’ve won a lot – 14 races this year – so it’s a really good sprint train,” he said.
“From last year, we’ve done a little bit different in the sprint train with some younger guys, but they learn really fast. We’ve done the Tour de France with this team and also the whole year, so we learn a lot from every race. And now we’re really very good.”